Anatomy of a Shopping Addiction

Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 3.07.57 PMby Hari Miter Kaur

Part One

It’s been a rough week. I’m overwhelmed at work, a dinner I had been looking forward to with a friend was cancelled and “he” hasn’t texted in 4 days, 3 hrs and 15 minutes. I had planned to clean out the laundry room this weekend but now that Saturday has rolled around, I’ve decided to take it easy. I pause intermittently from my House of Cards marathon to take bathroom breaks. During one of these breaks I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and stop take inventory of my reflection. My roots are showing, this old t-shirt is making me look frumpy and my skin is dull – I’m getting old; I’ve worn “this” so often. This image of myself is getting old. I pull the T-shirt taught and reveal a passable silhouette – one that if polished up properly, might actually be attractive. It’s not though. It’s not polished and I now convince myself that this frumped-out image is at least 83% of the reason why dinner got cancelled, why I’m feeling invisible at work, and why he hasn’t thought of me in 4 days, 3 hrs and 23 minutes.

This moment of clarity is galvanizing. Finally, I have the solution. If I polish myself up, I will become visible, important enough to dine with and valuable enough for him to think about. I am now on a mission and I am now going to take charge. It’s time to go shopping.

“I’m a diamond in the rough” I think to myself as I rush upstairs and flip through hundreds of hangers in my overrun closet. I’m deciding what to wear to the mall. Selecting a top is difficult. I review about 7 similar looking bohemian tops and wonder what I was thinking when I decided to buy them. I move to the higher end section of the closet and realize most of these are also inappropriate (too formal) for a visit to the mall, Ugh, I feel like Goldilocks in my own closet – nothing in this ridiculous volume of clothing options “fits” right. I finally pick out my outfit. It’s my go-to t-shirt and a go-to pair of jeans. These items never fail. I’m already feeling better. There is hope for me yet.

I grab my purse making sure that I have my cards with me. My bank and credit cards are like passports. I keep them close to me at all times because I know that in this world, it is impossible to get anywhere without them.

These cards go beyond simple currency in my world. They’re like the magic wand in a familiar fairy tale. Swipe and go from pumpkin to carriage, another swipe and you’ll go from dull to done-up, one more swipe and you’ll go from nobody to somebody. But as in every fairy tale with these familiar occurrences, there are two realities I’m starting to realize. One is that the effects are always temporary and two – heartbreakingly, they are make-believe.

I get in my car and start driving. I feel like a smoker on her way to get another pack of cigarettes, the food addict on her way to a drive-thru, the gambler en route to the casino. In a few minutes, I will be whole again. I will be powerful at my job, I will be dine-worthy, I will be wanted. Above all, in a few minutes I will re-plant the seeds of my addiction to shopping.

Part Two

I’ve arrived at the mall. I quietly hope that I don’t see anyone I know. I just want to get straight to it. I imagine all the things that I need and fantasize about what colours, textures, and accessories I will find on this treasure hunt. I enter the first store. It’s a mid to high-end fashion store that attracts a younger demographic. The store is filled with young adults. Thankfully I spot at least one other woman in her mid-forties signalling that it’s ok for me to be here.

I’m a diamond in the rough damn it and I’ve arrived at the refinery. I feel high.

Surrounded by endless possibilities, I feel like a blank canvas. Anything I do from here will be remarkable because I am at zero. I’m spotted – the sales people begin to approach. Yes!!! I am noticed. I am asked if I need help to which I politely decline. I don’t need help. I start to pick some items. They are undeniably beautiful to the eye and a salesperson takes these items off my hands to “start a change room” which is the equivalent of starting a tab at a bar.

I head to the change room to activate my transformation. As I walk into the back room the salesperson comments on how much she loves a skirt I picked. I quietly agree as I draw the curtain. I delight in the validation. She seems friendly, sure of her self, outgoing and well put together. Immediately I want the skirt to fit properly. Hearing validation of choice is one thing but wearing it is like nirvana. This interaction after all, it’s a micro friendship. It’s a temporary, anonymous BFF moment that requires no commitment. Keep in mind, this sales person sees me as a blank canvas – a glorious, flawless blank canvas. I have no image, no history, no experience. I am suspended in this moment of re-invention.

Success. My silhouette is revealed with this new skirt. I walk along the change room looking at myself in what seems like a hundred mirrors. All of them confirm that this skirt makes me better than what I was before I put it on. The salesperson begins to ooh and ahh and begins to rhyme off suggestions for where I will wear it. I try not to listen. I mute out the countless scenarios she describes that will never happen. The dinners I won’t have, the dates I don’t go on, the events I won’t be invited to. I smooth my hands over my hips while she’s going on and on about this fictitious other person’s life until I buy in. Yes, she’s right. This skirt will make me less lonely and less unwanted. That’s what she meant right? Or wait, maybe I was able to convince her that my life is like that already. Jackpot. I’m so high right now. Nothing can bring me down. And it gets better. Now I get to make a choice.

It’s like tearing open the bag of chips or like the first drag of a cigarette, or the line of cocaine after a row of shots, – pick your poison. I now get to take out my wand and make it happen. I have the power to manifest this transformation. I say the magic words “I’ll take it”. Climax.

I watch the girl behind the cash painstakingly fold my new purchase. She wraps it in tissue paper and places it in the bag. This is no ordinary bag. This is a wonderfully sturdy bag. The bag plays an important role in this experience. This bag will send off signals to the rest of the world. The bag announces a combined message. Partly that I am associated with this iconic brand (recall the youthful shoppers in the store) and partly that I am successful enough to afford it. When I walked into this mall I had nothing and now I get to leave with a bag of validation and acceptance rolled into one.

I get home to find my mini-schnauzer waiting anxiously at the door. She is so unbelievably excited to see me. Her body contorts with joy as she does her happy dance. I throw the bag with my new skirt in it on a chair and grab her leash. We’re off for a walk in the beautiful sun. When we return to the house I notice out of the corner of my eye that the bag had tilted off the chair and the skirt spilled on to the floor. Meh, I’ll pick it up later. I make my way back to the couch and hit play.

After a while I check my phone for messages – nothing. I tell myself that they’re too late anyways. I’ve been validated for today.


Hari Miter Kaur is exploring her addiction to shopping in the online Beyond Addiction program. Stay tuned for her next instalment.

For more information see upcoming programs. The next online program begins May 3, 2016.



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